If you’re new to Medicare and have wrestled with the pros and cons of different Medicare plans, you know that the devil is in the details. There are certainly things that you need to understand before you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan and important facts you need to be aware of before choosing a Medigap policy.
Watch: 5 Things to Know Before Choosing a Medigap Policy
Choosing a Medigap policy is easier than finding a Medicare Advantage Plan
When you understand how a Medigap policy works and know a little about the plan types, it’s a lot easier to find a supplement to Medicare than finding the right Advantage Plan. Here are the pros and cons of choosing a Medigap policy:
Plans are standardized and easy to understand. There are 10 plans designated by letters, such as Medicare supplement Plan F or Plan N. Because they are standardized a plan with the same letter designation will offer the same core benefits no matter which insurance company you shop with.
Some companies include small extra benefits like vision discounts or gym memberships (this is common with AARP Medicare supplements by United Healthcare) but this is not the norm.
Once you understand what costs will be your responsibility with original Medicare, you can review the Medicare Supplement Benefits chart and decide on your level of coverage. The more gaps (your share of expenses) that are filled by a Medigap policy, the higher the premium.
Another positive aspect to buying a Medigap policy is not having to deal with annual enrollment periods. With Medicare Advantage, you have an annual enrollment period where you must either enroll in, renew, drop or switch plans.
Once you buy a Medicare supplement, you have the plan for as long as you remain timely on the premiums. You cannot be singled out for cancellation or have o worry about your plan ending at year’s end.
You also have ample time to buy a Medigap policy when you first become Medicare eligible. During this 6 month open enrollment period you cannot be denied coverage or charged a higher amount due to health conditions.
There are also Guaranteed Issue Periods when you can buy a supplement with out medical underwriting. You need to be aware of the enrollment periods so you can maximize your Medicare plan options.
There are some perceived downsides to Medigap. The biggest is that a large portion of people on Medicare find the premiums to be beyond their budgets. But don’t just assume premiums to be too high… be sure to compare rates online to get quotes. You may be surprised.
Like all types of insurance, you can expect that Medigap rates will increase each year. that’s not to say that Medicare Advantage Plans will remain in the same price range indefinitely.
Also, Medigap policies do not include Part D drug coverage. In the past, prior to Part D, some plans did include drug coverage. You will need to choose a Part D plan and deal with the annual enrollment periods if you want drug coverage.
Overall, a Medigap policy is a good way to cover yourself if the premium is affordable. Take some time understanding the gaps in Medicare and choose a policy that you believe will fit your budget and meet your health care needs and you can check that off your list and move on.